Summer break officially ended last week and I honestly didn’t fell like I had any break at all. Not too long ago, someone jokingly said to me, “I bet you can’t wait for 2017 to be over!” I had never had that thought even though my life, at times, in 2017 has been exhausting. Given the fact that I had never discussed my life or my occasional exhaustion with this person, I had to ask, “What do you mean by that [statement]?” The person went on to recount every challenging moment in my life that they watched me experience so far in 2017. As a parent, wise elders always reminded me that my children were watching me. Apparently, the grown folks around me have been watching me too.
It was interesting to me that the onlooker empathized with my perceived life struggles, but had never approached me during any challenging moment to offer encouragement, advisement, or support. I wondered if the concerned bystander watched with the baited breath of a spectator as the clock expired and their team sat forth and goal with one final chance to score on what would be known as the winning drive. Was the concerned bystander waiting to see if any first responder would appear to save me from being overtaken by this relentless natural wonder that continued to dump unexpected chaos into my life? Had there been some entertainment value for them like the movie goer on the edge of the seat inhaling buttery morsels of popcorn and cheering for the underdog? Had this concerned person just watched me to see if there would be fallout or wreckage from my repeated collisions with the life locomotive seemingly sent to derail me?
As with many of the peripheral influences in my life, I categorized this bystander as one of the shadowy, faceless figures destined to be left in my past. I took from the encounter only what I needed and expressed gratitude for the lesson. Then, I sped away from the pointless, useless chatter about my unexplainable life issues. The pace at which I have learned to leave such chatter in my past erases the negative spirit and the faces of negativity from my brain space. My practice has become to these folks to my “shadowy figure lineup.” Recently, I was talking about my blog topic for this week and the person asked if the concerned bystander was a man or a woman. Before responding, I chuckled (in my head) because I couldn’t remember. It was clear to me that I took the lesson and relegated yet another person who left me hanging in a moment of challenge to my “shadowy figure lineup.” The gender of the person who caused me disappointment, pain, or neglect hasn’t been the criteria for banishment to my imaginary world of shadowy figures. I believe that has been the case because many of life’s lessons are gender neutral so it made good sense to me that my memory was without discrimination. The human shadows have served as lessons upon which to develop personally and professionally with grace, focus, and excellence.
In years like 2017, when life brought me rounds of events that jarred my center and moved me emotionally to simultaneously feel hurt, pain, frustration, disappointment, loneliness, sadness, and grief I must have had something in me that made the concerned bystander wonder how I was still standing. Being overwhelmed by chaos, made me desperate for relief. Desperation for change was a good thing because I couldn’t sit idle waiting for people to notice my state of survival. My concerned bystander proved that people will just sit and watch and do nothing. They won’t ask you if you need help and they don’t always go seek out help for you. 2017 layered some of life’s most challenging issues on my shoulders like I was the based of a pyramid in a circus performance. My head and my body were weary, but my heart and mind were strong and desperate to keep standing upright through this balancing act.
I hope that anyone carrying the weight of a chaotic life will learn, as I did, to ask for help from those who offer. I had to learn to trust people like they have trusted me to help them manage times of challenge. I didn’t trust them to take my place as the base, but asking them to play the role of safety net for me was a great place to start. I decided that I could give them roles of supporting cast members in this production who might do things like to bring me a cool towel to wipe the sweat so that I could see the obstacles more clearly, or to nurture me with water or encouraging words. After my brother’s death, I felt more alone than I had in a while. I was facing a move, a hope of job advancement, a change of family dynamics, and a move. A friend sent a text to ask if I needed anything. At that moment, I struggled to say that I just needed “company.” I needed someone to just sit with me so that I wouldn’t be alone. Give yourself permission to take even small steps to decide how much you can entrust to other folks or things on your way to elevating yourself above and out of the troubled situation.
Wishing that my year would end would do nothing but steal time that I can use to live. How foolish that wish would have been! We live our lives every day with people observing and grading our performances. Don’t hold on to their comments or their scorecards. In your desperation for relief, find comedy. Find new purpose to make the chaos purposeful. Find something or someone to provide a healthy, safe way for you to answer the challenge with calm, peace, and hope. Let what feels like a desperate situation drive you to breathe and put one foot in front of the other until you move your way through the situation.